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Thread: New National Jazz Museum in Harlem

  1. #1

    Default New National Jazz Museum in Harlem

    Jazzin’ It Up in Harlem

    The tempo is picking up in the complex improvisation that is the creation of a national jazz museum in Harlem.

    Buoyed by a fruitful all-star planning conference last month, museum officials have begun raising money and will visit prospective sites in Harlem in the coming weeks.

    “Momentum is definitely building,” said David Levy, a member of the nascent museum’s board and the president and director of the Corcoran Gallery in Washington.

    At the December conference, two dozen jazz experts and musicians laid out their visions of an institution that would be part history museum, art museum, school, listening library, and jazz club, where schoolchildren and experts can learn something new.

    “It will be living, pulsating, hearing, seeing, thumping, rhythmic, swinging,” said the jazz museum’s president, Leonard Garment, a Washington lawyer, former Nixon White House staffer, and occasional jazz saxophonist who’s moving back to New York next month to focus on museum planning.

    And it will definitely be in Harlem. Jazz may have been born in turn-of-the-century New Orleans and nurtured in Chicago, but it came of age in Harlem.

    “Harlem was really a port of call in a way no other place was,” said jazz musician Loren Schoenberg, executive director of the jazz museum. “Here, it’s going to resonate in a way it won’t resonate anywhere else.”

    “We make so much of New Orleans — God bless it — but it’s had its moment,” he said. “Harlem is still having
    its moment, and the Jazz Museum can really play a vital role in making Harlem a place for the future.”

    Founded as a not-for-profit organization in 1999, the museum has a board of four: Mr. Garment; Mr. Levy; Daryl Libow, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; and Billy Taylor, the renowned jazz pianist and head of the music department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

    A boost came in 2000, when Congress allocated $1 million through the Small Business Administration for the museum’s development. The board is planning a fund-raising drive.

    No major corporate sponsors have emerged. As for local government, “We’re really waiting to talk to the city and the state when we have something finite to talk about,” Mr. Schoenberg said.

    The museum doesn’t intend to partner with any other institutions. “We’re looking to be our own stand-alone entity,” said Mr. Schoenberg.

    And they’ll raise the money themselves. “There is no jazz museum in the world and there’s a lot of support for it,” he said.

    The shape the museum will take looms large.

    “It will not be object based,” Mr. Garment said. “Our focus will be more on musical history and the way musical history evokes the American experience, the narrative nature of the jazz experience.” It won’t feature display cases with album covers and famous musicians’ instruments.

    The museum can “help people understand the nature of jazz as a kind of metaphor for how American society has come together,” Mr. Levy said.

    “There’s a very deep message here,” he said. “It has to do with race, with the coming together of society, with the problems of society as well as the solutions. It’s a very embracing medium here.”

    Alfred Appel, a retired professor at Northwestern and author of “Jazz Modernism: From Ellington and Armstrong to Matisse and Joyce,” sees the museum as having a “schizoid mission.”

    “My notion is ideally of a dialectic between the kind of populist institution and the smaller, more specialist part of the institution devoted to temporary exhibitions,” he said.

    He’d like to see an exhibition on the jazz paintings of Stuart Davis, for instance, or one exploring jazz themes in Krazy Cat, the 1930s-era cartoon, or another displaying a recently discovered trove of programs from the Cotton Club.

    Some musicians are fearful the act of creating a jazz museum may send the message that jazz is dead. They want the museum to present the art form as a living glory.

    “What I was impressed by was the potential for this to not be a museum/mausoleum per se,” said Steve Kirby, a jazz bassist who attended the conference.

    He envisions residencies for musicians, and ongoing workshops. Others think a museum could educate new generations about a genre that is no longer the currency of the young.

    “Jazz has about the same market as classical music,” acknowledged Mr. Levy. “It has become music of the educated, not the music of the street, which it was in the 1940s.”

    Still, with Jazz at Lincoln Center preparing to open a new facility, the planners don’t think the museum should primarily be a performance space.

    “This would be fabulous, because we wouldn’t be competing but complementary organizations,” said the director of education and performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Laura Johnson.

    Nor do the planners see it as an archive.

    “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Mr. Schoenberg said, noting that it will be close to the country’s leading jazz archive, the Center for Jazz Studies at Rutgers, as well as to the Louis Armstrong archive at Queens College and the New York Public Library.

    As for the timing: “In the end it’s all about money,” Mr. Levy said. “If someone came in and wrote a check adequate to start building tomorrow, we’d start building tomorrow.”

    Copyright 2002 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

  2. #2
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI

    Default New National Jazz Museum in Harlem

    Excellent. *This is what NY needs - investment in things that are both entertaining and educational. *Also, things that make NY an even better place to live and visit. *

    It's also nice that it's in Harlem - good economically for them and good for the area, the help speed up the renewal.

  3. #3

    Default New National Jazz Museum in Harlem

    Perfect spot for it.

  4. #4
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown

    Default The Savory Collection

    An amazing addition to the National Jazz Museum ...

    Museum Acquires Storied Trove of Performances by Jazz Greats

    August 16, 2010

    For decades jazz cognoscenti have talked reverently of “the Savory Collection.” Recorded from radio broadcasts in the late 1930s by an audio engineer named William Savory, it was known to include extended live performances by some of the most honored names in jazz — but only a handful of people had ever heard even the smallest fraction of that music, adding to its mystique.

    After 70 years that wait has now ended. This year the National Jazz Museum in Harlem acquired the entire set of nearly 1,000 discs, made at the height of the swing era, and has begun digitizing recordings of inspired performances by Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Bunny Berigan, Harry James and others that had been thought to be lost forever. Some of these remarkable long-form performances simply could not fit on the standard discs of the time, forcing Mr. Savory to find alternatives. The Savory Collection also contains examples of underappreciated musicians playing at peak creative levels not heard anywhere else, putting them in a new light for music fans and scholars.

    “Some of us were aware Savory had recorded all this stuff, and we were really waiting with bated breath to see what would be there,” said Dan Morgenstern, the Grammy-winning jazz historian and critic who is also director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University. “Even though I’ve heard only a small sampling, it’s turning out to be the treasure trove we had hoped it would be, with some truly wonderful, remarkable sessions. None of what I’ve heard has been heard before. It’s all new.”


    Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

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